Tinnitus is a serious and growing health risk in the music industry. Musicians, audio engineers, live production crews, and even concert goers are at risk of developing debilitating ringing in the ears and other hearing damage.

As a professional pianist, speaker, trainer and tinnitus patient my message for you is this; no one is immune to tinnitus caused by exposure to loud noise. And, whether I’m speaking to the American Music Teachers Association, Tinnitus support groups or a growing online audience, I always sing the same tune, “Protect your ears at all cost.”

I contracted Tinnitus in early January 2001, and overnight I began to experience a constant high pitched ringing sound which stretched across my entire brain. The ringing was so intense that not even the high tech equipment at the Canadian Hearing Centre in Toronto could measure it.

Tinnitus stopped me dead in my tracks and kept me from performing concerts for two whole years. I couldn’t focus, I couldn’t sleep and I couldn’t concentrate. I was immobilized by the incessant drone and it whipped me straight into a serious depression.

After traveling the world in search of a cure from traditional medical professionals to no avail, I eventually turned to natural healers, shamen, gurus, and dozens of promising natural therapies that only proved one thing; there is no cure… well, not yet anyway.

When I was young, no one told me that the high decibels from a violin, saxophone, trumpet or piccolo could damage my ears. No one ever said that I needed to wear ear protection in rehearsals or on the gig. And if they did, I probably was too ignorant to believe that it could happen to me.

In the last 2 years I have heard hundreds of stories, just like mine, from tinnitus sufferers from across the globe. And, hundreds more have subscribed to my “Tinnitus Free Living” program which I deliver over the internet.

It’s difficult to describe how much pain some people are in. Many are suffering physically, emotionally, spiritually and mentally. They feel isolated, not only because doctors can’t help them but because no one understands or can sympathize.

Some move towards anger and some retreat into depression. For many, the ringing is so bad that they feel they’re going insane.

It is very difficult for some tinnitus sufferers to come to terms with their condition. Tinnitus can completely change a person’s life. But, the reality is; a person with debilitating tinnitus can’t remain the same.

Some tinnitus sufferers have to make serious life changes to cope. This can include a complete change in diet like giving up caffeine, alcohol, white flour, salt and sugars. It can mean giving up a job, or leaving a situation that is creating high stress. It can mean embarking on a huge spiritual and emotional shift. If people are suffering, it’s a sign that something has to change.

And ‘change’ is what I encourage. I inspire people to embrace change, because with change comes the freedom from suffering. Fighting, resisting, blaming, complaining and playing the victim doesn’t work. Never has, never will! Unless a person is willing to change from the inside out, they will continue to suffer.

Just this past spring, a mother emailed me to inform me that her son couldn’t cope with Tinnitus and that he had committed suicide. She also wanted to thank me because she believed that my program had helped him. In his case it was obviously too little, too late.

It’s because of people like that, that I do what I do. I was there. I was in her son’s shoes. I lived the experience that he lived and I came out the other side. I see it now as my duty to help in any way I can.

There are millions of people around the world who suffer from tinnitus. And thousands more join the ranks each and every day. When new tinnitus sufferers find me on the internet they always ask the same question, “How do even begin to cope?”

Learning how to cope, or change is what defines us and measures our resolve. And, choosing change over resistance is a journey that is well worth taking.

In the meantime, don’t just sit around and hope that tinnitus doesn’t happen to you. If you think you might be at risk, take the necessary steps to protect your ears before it’s too late.

Paul Tobey is a concert jazz pianist, professional public speaker and trainer whose “Tinnitus Free Living” program has helped hundreds of tinnitus patients worldwide. For more information visit; www.paultobey.com/tinnitus